Sunday, August 2, 2009
Pooling Our Resources
The current economic picture has provided different challenges for most of us. One is the broken nest eggs of many retirees or the loss of jobs in the younger generation. What’s interesting is that many are returning to a way of life familiar in our country a few generations back when families pooled their resources and moved in together.
My Mother’s Mother, the kind that puts the word “Grand” into Grandmothers, lived with us my whole growing up life. She passed away just after I left home to get married. Going home was no longer the same without her there. The benefits of having Grandma there as I grew up were many. No matter how in trouble I was with my parents, Grandma always had a hug to give. My own Mother was very involved in community service and it was Grandma who taught me to cook and sew and do crafts. My Dad had a huge vegetable garden and lots of berry bushes and she could create amazing dishes out of what he brought in from the garden. She taught me how to enjoy creativity and creating something out of nothing. She was great at taking old gardening catalogs and doing collage with the beautiful images, or painting an old chair to make it a seating place we all fought over using, or cutting out rooms from Ladies Home Journal and making houses from them. We had such fun, she sang funny songs, she took us on long car rides through the country, beeping the car horn under a bridge so it echoed, and speeding up as we approached the bumps in the road, causing us to sail through the air more than a few times!
Oh the memories. Perhaps this is a good outcome from the economy, bringing the generations back into closer contact again. I know I would be a totally different person without Grandma’s daily presence in my life. Oh to be sure, there will be stress combining households and if possible, I recommend, from a feng shui point of view, that the living space allow for privacy and independence for all residents. For example, my Grandmother had her own living quarters attached to the end of our house so she could come and go as she pleased, entertain her own friends, have her own life, as could my parents. She cooked her own dinners, and lived on her own, but we shared things like costs of utilities, mortgage payments, homemade ice cream and the like. She came on vacation with us sometimes but not all times, she had parties and didn’t’ invite my parents and vice versa, so to remain independent for as long as possible is an important ingredient in this scenario.
Having a separate unit is often not in the cards but there are other things you can do to create a living space for a part of the family returning to the “nest”. If you have experienced this or have ideas, this will be a great forum for you. We all would love to hear what you have to say and what some of you have learned from experience.
Here are a few ideas to spark the conversation: combine two bedrooms with a bath for an in-law suite. Use an underused room in the house (like a formal living room) and create a suite there. Use a basement or a part of a 3 car garage. Install a lift to the second floor for aging parents. Replace hardware on cupboards so they can be used by older people.
What else have you come up with or seen used?